Solihull, Warwickshire: design for a bridge for William Moland, 1785 (1)
Soane's Account Book for 1781-86 records (p.59) an entry William Moland of Solihull, Warwickshire, dated 1785: 'Feb. 6 Design for a Bridge / March 12 Another Design / Nov. 12 D<sup>o</sup>'. The cost for the three designs was £5.5.0. This design is the second of the three and the only one remaining in the Museum's possession. The elevation shows a bridge with a segmental arch supported either side by piers each in the form of a simplified triumphal arch whose attic storey contains a panel, as if for inscription, the whole surmounted by a pediment. Railings run the full length of the bridge on either side. Two variant designs of railings are proposed on the theme of uprights decorated by rosettes within a diamond and surmounted by palmettes. The railings are of a design frequently employed by Soane, for example in the staircase at nearby Malvern Hall (1784).
The 'plan of the Superstructure' of the bridge shows both sides of the bridge, with the railings indicated. A feint pencil addition to the extreme right hand 'plan of the Superstructure' shows that Soane considered widening the ends of the bridge.
It is highly likely that this is a design for a bridge to the north of Springfield House (now known as Springfield Hall), Knowle, Warwickshire, built by Joseph Bonomi (1739-1808) in 1790-91 for Richard Moland.
The executed bridge is less elaborate than this design with plain railings and no pediments. However it is almost identical in form and proportion with the exception that the secondary arches do not sit directly under the piers but adjacent to them, beneath the extremities of the bridge where it joins the river bank.
Additional research is required to establish whether the executed bridge followed precisely one of the other two designs provided by Soane to Moland or was a local artisan's interpretation of Soane's work. The Moland papers held in Warwickshire County Record office within the Jackson Archive may elucidate this point.
A comparison with drawings SM 79/1/3 and 79/1/4 lends weight to the possibility of the executed bridge being by Soane. These two designs drawings each show a different design for a bridge for Rene Payne possibly for Sulby Lodge, Northamptonshire. Both are dated 13 April 1797. They are variants of the design of March 1785 prepared for William Moland, a clear example of Soane's practice of re-using existing designs for new commissions. The bridge in drawing 79/1/3 is without pediments, as was the executed bridge at Springfield Hall.
With respect to the rough verso drawing Soane rarely used 'battlements' but he did so at Skelton Castle for which he began making drawings from July 1787. The SM drawings for the domestic offices are dated 1790-1 so that rules out any connection.